The best US cities for foodies


When it comes to food, the United States are a land of plenty. Great meal options abound, from lobster-filled sea to shining sea, with portion sizes tending towards the gluttonous. Those hoping to eat their way across America would be wise to travel with their most loose-fitting trousers – and a taste for adventurous new cuisines.

From farm-to-table fine dining and innovative vegetarian dishes to comforting fast food staples like cheeseburgers and hot dogs, you never have to travel far in the States to find temptation. There are certain places, however, that have developed a culinary world all their own; here are the US cities no true foodie should miss:

New Orleans, Louisiana

There’s nowhere else on Earth quite like New Orleans. The Big Easy is a mind-boggling mix of European, Caribbean and African influences and it has the wholly unique cuisine to prove it. At restaurants like Cochon you can sample roots Cajun and southern home cooking as it has tasted for generations, with stand-out dishes including smoked ham hock with red beans and charred radish and chicken hearts. And where else but at Creole restaurant Jacques-Imo’s could you be offered a slice of Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake? New Orleans is also home to one of the world’s great sandwiches, the po’boy, a flaky French baguette stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and a plethora of fillings that include shrimp, roast beef and catfish. If you can still find room after all that, an order of doughy beignets from Cafe Du Monde should finish you off.

Don’t miss: After Beyoncé performed in New Orleans in 2013, she ordered 150 po’boys from Parkway Bakery and Tavern for her crew and entourage. That’s America’s equivalent of a royal seal of approval for this popular neighbourhood hangout that dates from 1911.

San Francisco and The Bay Area, California

Given that it’s surrounded by the Napa Valley wine country to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west and bountiful Californian farm country to the south, it’s no surprise that San Francisco is one of the world’s great food cities. Fisherman’s Wharf is paradise for seafood lovers, and is home to famed bakery Boudin Sourdough with its mouth-watering bread bowls filled with chowder. However, it’s on the other side of the bay in Berkeley that modern California cuisine was born at Alice Water’s legendary Chez Panisse, the original farm-to-table restaurant. Just around the corner is FAVA, a delightful organic lunch spot that specialises in flatbread sandwiches and salads.

Don’t miss: The world has San Francisco’s historic Mission District to thank for the Mission-style burrito, a super-sized version of the Mexican favourite stuffed with rice, beans, avocado and meat. If that still doesn’t sound mammoth enough, head to the brightly-decorated Taqueria Cancún where the signature Burrito Mojado comes topped with extra helpings of guacamole, sour cream, and red salsa.

Memphis, Tennessee

If you’re a barbecue lover, there are few greater pleasures in life than sampling the vast array of hickory-smoked meats on offer across Memphis. Payne’s Bar-B-Que, located in an old cinderblock gas station, serves up unbeatable chopped pork sandwiches, while even unassuming dive bars like Alex’s Tavern can be counted on to deliver first-class ribs (their secret ingredient is a dash of salty Cavender’s Greek seasoning).

Don’t miss: Even in a city renowned for its barbecue, The Bar-B-Q Shop stands out as special. It’s descended from Brady & Lil’s – a seminal Memphis joint near Stax Records where legend has it the Beatles once bought out every rib in the place.

It may be a city most closely associated with dollar pizza slices, Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and hulking slices of cheesecake, but the Big Apple is also home to some of America’s most acclaimed restaurants. Éric Ripert’s fish-focused French restaurant Le Bernardin earned its three Michelin stars with inventive dishes like tuna tartare with sea urchin toast. Less award-winning – but just as satisfying – is the pastrami on rye from Katz’s Delicatessen, the quintessential New York diner, where a prominent sign points out exactly where Meg Ryan sat in When Harry Met Sally. We’ll have what she’s having.

Don’t miss: Forward-thinking Korean restaurant Atomix was the most highly-rated restaurant in the United States on the most recent list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Try the Spanish mackerel with turnip and lentil to find out why.

Portland, Maine

Portland’s prime location on the North Atlantic coast makes it one of the best places in the world to eat seafood. It’s hard to go wrong with plentiful Maine lobsters, juicy mussels and salty oysters: Eventide Oyster Co. offers no less than 18 varieties of them. It’s not all lobster brioche rolls and raw molluscs, however. The city’s foodie reputation has attracted world-class chefs like Thomas Takashi Cooke. His Japanese restaurant Izakaya Minato uses the fruits of the sea in endlessly inventive ways, like their bite-size mochi “bacon” and broiled oysters, served with miso custard.

Don’t miss: Seafood doesn’t get fresher than at Harbor Fish Market, a New England institution that dates from the late 19th century.

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles’ food scene is as vast and sprawling as the city itself. Beyond fast food favourites like the beloved In-N-Out Burger chain and the cities innumerable, and uniformly excellent, taco trucks there’s a whole world to be explored. Koreatown’s all-you-can-eat restaurants, like Jjukku Jjukku BBQ, are hard to beat, while Jitlada is a simple strip-mall joint which promises, and delivers, the spiciest Thai food in town. There are few better cities in the world to be vegetarian, too. Celebrity-favourite Crossroads Kitchen serves an astonishing spaghetti carbonara topped with a vegan egg sunny side up. The exact recipe is a closely-guarded secret, but the perfectly runny yoke is said to be made with yellow tomatoes. Has to be eaten to be believed.

Don’t miss: Downtown’s Grand Central Market dates from 1917 and today is home to dozens of stalls offering cuisines from across the city and around the world. The perfect one-stop-shop to get your head, and mouth, around LA’s staggering culinary diversity.

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